Comparison Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is considered to be one of the greatest love stories of all time. It is the tragic tale of two star crossed lovers; Romeo of the house of Montague and Juliet of the house of Capulet. Both houses have an ongoing feud with the other that had yet to be broken, until Romeo and Juliet fell desperately in love and were secretly married. Their relationship was doomed when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt and Romeo and his friend Mercutio ended up in a duel where Tybalt slayed Mercutio and Romeo Slayed Tybalt.
In order to be together Juliet fakes her death and awaits Romeo to find her. Miscommunication occurs and in the end both lovers end up taking their own lives for love. Many adaptations of Shakespeare’s original story have been created but the most popular of that is West Side Story (music by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Berstein and book by Arthur Laurents). In West Side Story we are introduced to two rival gangs; “the jets”( who are Caucasian) and ‘the Sharks” (who are immigrant Peurto Ricans).
Both gangs are competing for power and control of the streets. Tony who is a retired Jet falls for Maria who is tied to “the Sharks”. Their love is instantaneous and would be rejected by all of society if anyone found out, so they keep it hidden. The two gangs decide to have on final rumble to determine the superior gang, however in the fight the two leaders end dying.
Tony killed “the Sharks” leader and is forced to flee town, hopefully with Maria at his side.
Before everything can work out Tony hears that Maria has been killed (which is not true) so he sets out to be killed himself. The play ends with Tony getting shot and dying in Maria’s arms. Both Romeo and Juilet and West Side Story have a lot in common as well as many differences. Although Maria and Juliet reflect each other in age and situation, there are many differences that give them unique distinction. West Side Story differs from Romeo and Juliet in personal characterization, relationship translation and scene sequence.
Although Maria is a direct rendition of Juliet there are actually many differences between the two girls, for example the name change to Maria Nunez with no connection to Juliet or Capulet. Actually an interesting difference that I found was the importance of names in both plays: in Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet discovers that Romeo is a Montague she begins to stress about his family name and how she wish she did not know he was a Montague. Act II, scene II, Juliet reflects on the importance of a name “What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would ,were he not Romeo call’d. ” However in West Side Story Maria actually stops Tony and asks him what his name stands for in Act I, scene V, “Tony! [He stops. A pause. ] What does Tony stand for?.. Te adoro, Anton. ” In this scene, Maria uses Tony’s full name to bring her closer to him by knowing his true self as opposed to Juliet who recognizes that Romeo’s full name will tear them apart. Juliet was a young woman from a rich family of high status that was much respected among their town.
In fact, both Juliet and Romeo came from high status families with many prospects. Maria is a Puerto Rican new to America, her family works hard to support themselves but they still live in dirty apartments on the wrong side of town. West Side Story is set in Manhattan during the 1950’s when racial stereotypes and discrimination were still dominant, therefore all of the Puerto Rican community was looked down upon including Maria. Although Maria and Juliet seem very similar generally speaking they differ in their philosophical/ethical views.
Maria is more idealistic and careless than Juliet is because Maria defies her brother’s attempted betrothal to Chino and dreams of the life her and Tony could have together. Whereas Juliet is obedient and willing to live her life with Paras according to her parents, until she meets Romeo and he introduces her to love and the possibility of a new life. The character’s relationships between both plays are drastically different. In order to adapt the story for modern times (i. e. 1950’s) many changes were made to West Side Story.
One of the most pivotal relationships in Romeo and Juliet was between Juliet and her nurse. Juliet’s nurse aided Juliet, despite her personal feelings, to meet with Romeo and potentially have the life she always wanted. In West Side Story, this motherly bond is actually shared between Maria and her brother’s girlfriend Anita, who despite her hatred of Tony offered to give Maria’s message to Doc for them to run away. However, un like Juliet’s nurse who successfully delivers the message to Romeo for him to meet Juliet, Anita is accosted by the jets and instead ells them all that Maria was shot, betraying that close/motherly bond. One of the most noticeable differences is in relationships has to do with the parents. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s parents are so involved in her life by arranging her marriage, counselling her on how to woo Paras and as most parents claiming that they know what is best for her. Yet in West Side Story the parents of all children are never seen and barely mentioned, leaving Maria to make her own decisions and appeal to her brother Bernardo and Anita instead.
Bernardo not only plays head of the “sharks” gang, but also the over protective big brother who will stop at nothing to protect his sister who symbolizes their culture and tradition in a sense. So when he discovers Tony and Maria dancing he is instantly enraged and bent on revenge. In Romeo and Juliet, it is Juliet’s cousin Tybalt who is revenge driven and set on killing Romeo, but Tybalt’s fury is risen from pride and resentment instead of a protective feeling. Shakespeare’s classic love tale of Romeo and Juliet has been lamented for its tragic elements.
The fact that fate could be doomed and the idea that Romeo and Juliet’s true love could only exist once both had died for their love. When you look at both plays the order of songs and scenes are substantially related, with the exception of a song or two added in West Side Story to help feed the theme of prejudice and promise of a better life in America. Overall none of the songs alter the narrative of story for my character. All songs that are performed are directly linked to key points of the classic story line which it was based off.
However in West Side Story, there is one crucial scene that is the exact opposite of what happens in Romeo and Juliet but it was not catalysed by any songs, the story itself was just written that way. In the iconic death scene in Romeo and Juliet; Romeo, believing that Juliet is dead goes into her family tomb to die with her. There he meets Paras and the two quarrel and it ends with Romeo killing Paras. When Romeo happens upon Juliet he is so stricken with grief that he says his final farewell and drinks poison to end his life and reunite him with his Juliet.
Suddenly, Juliet awakes yearning for her Romeo only to find him dead. Juliet is so distraught at the sight of this that can think of only one solution; the only way they can be together is by both dying for each other. Juliet that there is still some poison on Romeo’s lips so she kisses him to find that there is not enough to kill her fast enough. Therefore she takes matters into her own hands, by taking up Romeo’s dagger and running herself through with it.
In the end when both families have realized their lost, they end their feud. In the case of Tony and Maria; Tony is lead to believe that Maria has been killed by her intended husband Chino. Ironically, instead of Tony happening upon and killing Chino, Tony is fueled by despair and runs through the streets begging for Chino to kill him. Tony has lost all hope for death and life when he sees Maria coming towards him .